Time Passages



Dear Family and Friends

A long time has passed since I wrote a letter, but the reprieve is up. It has been a time of reflection, of growth, of change and readjustment. In short – life as usual…

My eyesight, the most amazing adjustment of all, is still a daily miracle to me. I still hope I won’t wake up from this dream world where I can recognize people more than four feet away. I’m glad I never knew people could see like this, I would have missed it way too much. But now – it’s a whole new form of entertainment.

On the home front, Sara is fast approaching High School graduation. We have survived a rather intense case of senioritis and just need to figure out which school to choose. It looks as though UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz are the main contenders – and I guess we have till May to let them know. She has decided that she wants to stay not too far away, and I am pleased. She actually WANTS me to be close enough to come visit. Can’t fathom it, but I like it.

Daniel has managed to carve himself out a lifestyle that seems to suit him to a tee. He is living in an apartment and is keeping house in a rather admirable way. Laundry, shopping, cooking etc etc are all managed well. His fraternity elected him treasurer and he has been doing a fair amount of freelance web work to help support his various interests. Last quarter he completed his sophomore requirements and is now officially a junior – and holding his own. Even with a fair amount of distraction provided by a certain young lady….

Shlomo is having a better time at work this year, and some issues seem to have been resolved, leaving him less compromised. He hasn’t traveled as much this year, but has been busy with the stock market, and like every other guy, spends way too much time talking about stocks, checking stocks, giving stock tips… you know the routine..

Henry has decided to close up Melco, for a variety of reasons, all of which make sense and should improve things drastically for him. However, it has not been an easy decision nor is it simple to carry out. I have offered to lend a hand where possible. The job I was given – at least for now – is to clean up the ominous packrat backlog left by my father. What an enormous and challenging job. From incredulity to laughter to tears – I am sifting through the mountains of artifacts left. He was too busy living to bother. It’s a journey that takes me places I hadn’t prepared for. Hard sometimes.

Generally, this is always a difficult time of year for me anyway. Today my father would have been 85, but on his birthday I always recall the year my mother died. We drove out to Palm Springs to do some stupid errands and for lunch. It was a Friday. A week later, on the 9th, she died, and was buried on the 11th, which would have been their 35th anniversary. It is this time of year that is marked for me by lilacs, and when I returned home, I saw they are in full bloom.

So this time, being at Melco was especially hard. I grew up walking through that factory, and, like a factory should, it always hummed. When I worked there, my father wanted me to understand how people live, so I shouldered a rivet gun and did the assembly line for a time, though I also worked in the office. The summer I was 16, I worked in there to earn some money to take a much desired vacation to Mexico, and Betty and I paid for our own tickets and hotels when we took the bus from Tijuana to Mexico City (It was only 32 dollars, I think), though we flew home (That was closer to 200, but much quicker!). My father’s view of life was heavy on the manufacturing end, and as a child, wherever we went, we toured factories to see and understand how things are made. Definitely it made an impression on how I view life, I know that.

Walking through Melco, most of the machines are silent. Rigor mortis has started to set in, and it feels like a morgue. For my part, I try to bring some postive energy into the place, to dispel some of the horrid gloom that hangs in the air. Steve, the foreman, and I are always at it with playful banter – I have known him all my life. He started working at Melco in 1953, and my father always treated everyone like they were part of the family. So he teases me unmercifully, but I always get him back. Then we turn to work on Larry, and give him hell, too. The office girls, Jodi and Veronica, give me a hand whenever I need it, so when it gets too raggedy for me in the warehouse, I come spend a few in the office.

My father’s stage is being dismantled. The wall that is covered with the map of the world filled with pins will soon no longer show which continents he explored nor which cities he conquered.. So I take stock, toss, sort, ready items for sale on ebay, and, as I can, sort through letters and pictures. This week I found a treasure trove of letters to my father, from the most amazing assortment of people. Richard Nixon the president -elect, Goodwin Knight, governor, Sam Yorty, mayor, Conrad Hilton, Time magazine, Heads of commerce and various councilmen, senators, congressmen, etc. etc. etc. All shoved in together with brochures, junk mail, newsletters – everything must be gone through. Its an overwhelming task, and the dust is thick.

Sometimes, it’s the pictures, though that get me. I found one, taken in 1956, with my father front and center, next to his “Melco Man” logo and surrounded by the workers of his fledgling company. Steve (the foreman, remember?) is there, at the very left, looking really tough guy. Most of the people in that picture worked for my father till they retired, at least the guys. He never was afraid to get his hands dirty, and he knew how to work every machine and do every job, and could show anyone how exactly to make something work well. I loved watching him work, and spent many hours helping him weld and solder using acetylene tanks at home on weekends. He would think and draw and figure then take the wire, cut and bend it just right, and make it speak. Process excited him, and he wanted to try them all. When my mother was dying we worked together on stained glass, really the last big “project” we ever did together. I must have foiled fifteen million pieces for a tiffany lamp he wanted to put together. He got somebody else to cut out all the tiny pieces, and I worked and worked every night foiling them. He couldn’t sit still long enough to do much, but he sat with me at the table, and we spoke of the future as I pretended with him that my mother was in it. Today, the cups full of foiled pieces sit in my garage, waiting for the day I am able to see in it the lamp that needs to be put together, and not the attempt at gathering my fathers life together. Perhaps I should teach Daniel how you can take some flux and solder and bring all the colors together so that the light they shed is colored and complex. I could help, but cannot bear the thought of sitting all alone over those foiled shards.

Its hard enough to go through boxes. I haven’t even begun to dig deep. I found pictures from Henry and Wendy’s wedding, in June 1974. Shlomo had not yet returned from Israel so Joel was my date. I didn’t mind, as I loved going to parties with Joel. I never could remember anyone’s name, and in fact, was rather famous for it. It was humiliating, and made me feel foolish, but the fact remained. Joel, on the other hand, knew everyone, and could produce names like a diplomat’s aide. At parties, we would walk around together, and he would spot who was coming to say hello and prep me – telling me whom it was, and some details. When they got to me, they always had this little gleam in their eye as they said, “of course, you don’t remember me, but….” Power! Joel had made sure I DID know! I would say “oh, don’t be silly! Of COURSE I do, (name) – and how is (wives name) and the kids? Amazed, they would answer and back away, nothing left to say. I loved that part the best, and my parents of course were renowned party-givers – If you didn’t count the before or after, those were marvelous times. So many stupid little memories are springing up, unbidden. I remembered, for no good reason, the bartender at a party when I was ten or so – he was one of these totally infectious cases of a good attitude. During a pre-party break he taught me how to backshuffle cards – which for years I used to impress those who find such parlor tricks clever. Memories, see how they are? No warning, they just grab you by the throat.

So I enclose some pictures on my fathers birthday. Some happy memories which stir my soul a bit. I also send along part of a table picture ( Gerry – you just happened to make it into this one – look at all that HAIR! Ellen, can you believe it?), that reminded me also of just how very much I loved Joel. I don’t want to miss this opportunity to tell you all that you too constitute a big portion of my life, and so I take this opportunity to say, though we may not speak often or much, I love you.